Page images

any man's blame or censure: no man thinking any ignominy or contumely unworthy of him, that had been the executioner of King Henry the sixth, that innocent Prince, with

his own hands; the contriver of the death of the duke of 5 Clarence his brother; the murderer of his two nephews, one

of them his lawful King in the present, and the other in the future, failing of him, and vehemently suspected to have been the impoisoner of his wife, thereby to make vacant his

bed, for a marriage within the degrees forbidden. And al10 though he were a Prince in military virtue approved, jealous

of the honour of the English nation, and likewise a good law-maker, for the ease and solace of the common people; yet his cruelties and parricides, in the opinion of all men,

weighed down his virtues and merits; and, in the opinion 15

of wise men, even those virtues themselves were conceived to be rather feigned and affected things to serve his ambition, than true qualities ingenerate in his judgment or nature. And therefore it was noted by men of great under

standing, who seeing his after-acts, looked back upon his 20 former proceedings, that even in the time of King Edward

his brother he was not without secret trains and mines to turn envy and hatred upon his brother's government; as having an expectation and a kind of divination, that the

King, by reason of his many disorders, could not be of long 25

life, but was like to leave his sons of tender years; and then he knew well, how easy a step it was, from the place of a protector and first Prince of the blood to the crown. And that out of this deep root of ambition it sprung, that

as well at the treaty of peace that passed between Edward jo the fourth and Lewis the eleventh of France, concluded by

interview of both Kings at Piqueny, as upon all other occasions, Richard, then duke of Gloucester, stood ever upon the side of honour, raising his own reputation to the disad

[ocr errors][merged small]

vantage of the King his brother, and drawing the eyes of all

, especially of the nobles and soldiers, upon himself; as if the King, by his voluptuous life and mean marriage, were become effeminate and less sensible of honour and reason of state than was fit for a King. And as for the politic and 5 wholesome laws which were enacted in his time, they were interpreted to be but the brocage of an usurper, thereby to woo and win the hearts of the people, as being conscious to himself, that the true obligations of sovereignty in him failed, and were wanting. But King Henry, in the very 10 entrance of his reign, and the instant of time when the kingdom was cast into his arms, met with a point of great difficulty, and knotty to solve, able to trouble and confound the wisest King in the newness of his estate ; and so much the more, because it could not endure a deliberation, but 15 must be at once deliberated and determined. There were fallen to his lot, and concurrent in his person, three several titles to the imperial crown. The first, the title of the lady Elizabeth, with whom, by precedent pact with the party, that brought him in, he was to marry. The second, the 20 ancient and long disputed title, both by plea and arms, of the house of Lancaster, to which he was inheritor in his own person. The third, the title of the sword or conquest, for that he came in by victory of battle, and that the king in possession was slain in the field. The first of these was 25 fairest, and most like to give contentment to the people, who by two and twenty years reign of King Edward the fourth had been fully made capable of the clearness of the title of the white rose or house of York; and, by the mild and plausible reign of the same King toward his latter time, 30 were become affectionate to that line. But then it lay plain before his eyes, that if he relied upon that title, he could be but a King at courtesy, and have rather a matrimonial than


a regal power; the right remaining in his Queen, upon whose decease, either with issue, or without issue, he was to give place and be removed. And though he should obtain

by parliament to be continued, yet he knew there was a 5 very great difference between a King that holdeth his crown

by a civil act of estates, and one that holdeth it originally by the law of nature and descent of blood. Neither wanted there even at that time secret rumours and whisperings,

which afterwards gathered strength and turned to great 10 troubles, that the two young sons of King Edward the

fourth, or one of them, which were said to be destroyed in the Tower, were not indeed murdered, but conveyed secretly away, and were yet living: which, if it had been true, had

prevented the title of the lady Elizabeth. On the other 15 side, if he stood upon his own title of the house of Lan

caster, inherent in his person, he knew it was a title condemned by parliament, and generally prejudged in the common opinion of the realm, and that it tended directly to the

disinherison of the line of York, held then the indubitate 20 heirs of the crown. So that if he should have no issue by

the lady Elizabeth, which should be descendants of the double line, then the ancient flames of discord and intestine wars, upon the competition of both houses, would again re

turn and revive. 25 As for conquest, notwithstanding Sir William Stanley,

after some acclamations of the soldiers in the field, had put a crown of ornament, which Richard wore in the battle and was found amongst the spoils, upon King Henry's head, as

if there were his chief title; yet he remembered well upon 30 what conditions and agreements he was brought in; and

that to claim as conqueror, was to put as well his own party, as the rest, into terror and fear; as that which gave him power of disannulling of laws, and disposing of mens for

[ocr errors]

tunes and estates, and the like points of absolute power, being in themselves so harsh and odious, as that William himself, commonly called the conqueror, howsoever he used and exercised the power of a conqueror to reward his Normans, yet he forbore to use that claim in the beginning, but

5 mixed it with a titulary pretence, grounded upon the will and designation of Edward the confessor. But the King, out of the greatness of his own mind, presently cast the die; and the inconveniences appearing unto him on all parts, and knowing there could not be any interreign or suspension 10 of title, and preferring his affection to his own line and blood, and liking that title best which made him independent; and being in his nature and constitution of mind not very apprehensive or forecasting of future events afar off

, but an entertainer of fortune by the day; resolved to 15 rest upon the title of Lancaster as the main, and to use the other two, that of marriage, and that of battle, but as supporters, the one to appease secret discontents, and the other to beat down open murmur and dispute; not forgetting that the same title of Lancaster had formerly maintained a pos- 20 session of three descents in the crown; and might have proved a perpetuity, had it not ended in the weakness and inability of the last prince. Whereupon the King presently

very day, being the two and twentieth of August, assumed the style of King in his own name, without mention 25 of the lady Elizabeth at all, or any relation thereunto. In which course he ever after persisted; which did spin him a thread of many seditions and troubles. The King, full of these thoughts, before his departure from Leicester, dispatched Sir Robert Willoughby to the castle of Sheriff-Hut- 30 ton in Yorkshire, where were kept in safe custody, by King Richard's commandment, both the lady Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward, and Edward Plantagenet, son and heir to



George duke of Clarence. This Edward was by the King's warrant delivered from the constable of the castle to the hand of Sir Robert Willoughby; and by him with all safety

and diligence conveyed to the Tower of London, where he 5 was shut up close prisoner. Which act of the king's, being

an act merely of policy and power, proceeded not so much from any apprehension he had of doctor Shaw's tale at Paul's cross, for the bastarding of Edward the fourth's issues, in

which case this young gentleman was to succeed, for that 10 fable was ever exploded, but upon a settled disposition to

depress all eminent persons of the line of York. Wherein still the King, out of strength of will or weakness of judgment, did use to shew a little more of the party than of the

King 15

For the lady Elizabeth, she received also a direction to repair with all convenient speed to London, and there to remain with the Queen dowager her mother; which accordingly she soon after did, accompanied with many noblemen

and ladies of honour. In the mean season the King set 20 forwards by easy journeys to the city of London, receiving

the acclamations and applauses of the people as he went, which indeed were true and unfeigned, as might well appear in the very demonstrations and fulness of the cry. For

they thought generally, that he was a Prince, as ordained 25 and sent down from heaven, to unite and put to an end

the long dissensions of the two houses; which although they had had, in the times of Henry the fourth, Henry the fifth, and a part of Henry the sixth, on the one side, and the

times of Edward the fourth on the other, lucid intervals and 30 happy pauses; yet they did ever hang over the kingdom,

ready to break forth into new perturbations and calamities. And as his victory gave him the knee, so his purpose of

« PreviousContinue »